Hetalia - Axis Powers Fan Fiction ❯ The sun rose in 1054 ❯ The Kid from the West ( Chapter 1 )
Warnings: English is not my first language. The characters have medieval views on everything. I do not endorse a single thing they say. This chapter probably contains Islamophobia Also, pseudo-AU, changes from canon had been made.
Grandpa Rome became the Papal States after his fall. Lovino is part Islamic Nation(I'm not nuts!) culturally and literally. The Islamic influence only in the south caused the split of Italy. Sicily is an Emirate.
-Spain is also a kid and not Hispania He is the 'hope/national idea' of the union of the half-starved Christian nations left in Iberia. If those nations end up not uniting he will die.
Welcome to the XI Century: The Golden Age of the Islamic Empire
The Empire of the Half-moon shines brighter than the sun and illuminates Rome's nightmares. The Islamic Empire rose from the East, wild and green-eyed, with skin tanned like copper and a herd of demonic, masked offsprings following him. Their cursed strength has conquered everything, from the Himalaya to Iberia. They held parts of France. He made deals with the pagan Vikings and claimed lordship over six seas. He was the king of the world and that was meant to be Rome's title.
All of Rome's kids in the south have died or betrayed him. He has even lost his daughter, split in half by this monster's corruption. With Hispania dead, the North of the Mediterranean is under threat too. The worst joke they could play on him though was to pollute his legacy like this and make him raise a bastard. Thank all the Gods he had been given an heir he could save from harm. Lovino was not responsible for the death of his mother, or of the green in his own eyes, Rome knew that. He was not responsible for having been turned into a weapon to tear Rome's heart to shreds and spit in his face. He tried to love the kid. He did. He just couldn't. Every time he even looked at the kid all he could see were those mixed-color eyes, the bastardization of his legacy, the death of his daughter, and the green-eyed Islamic Empire laughing wildly at him.
It is hard to tell hate from fear, but Rome is never afraid.
Lovino and The Norman Conquest of South Italy. The first part(July 1054)
His grandfather tried. He did. He tried to like Romano and he simply couldn't. Lovino was aware of it all. He would scream the brains out of anyone who dared to accuse his Grandfather of neglect, even if he barely talked to Lovino, even if nobody in the house did. They had no right to speak. Rome tried! Lovino saw how hard he tried! He just couldn't because loving Lovino was too difficult. He didn't know what was so wrong with him. He tried to find out, but couldn't. All he knew was that it was impossible for anyone to look at him in the eye and not dislike him. He was just unlovable. In fact, he was sure that the whole issue of the Normans had done to the dogs because of something Lovino had done.
Rome and the French Bastard had brought the idea of the Normans up around 998 dC. It was now 1054.
"V-Vikings, you want to inoculate me with Vikings?" He had asked, in panic.
"Oh, don't think about them as Vikings, mon petit. Think about them about Normans."
"Isn't...isn't that the same?"
"Oui, but it sounds much better. Besides, my Normans are Christians...in their murderous way. Don't worry. Just focus on how they can help you fix your...your...you know...your embarrassing little problem with the Syrian occupation of Sicily," the French Fuckface said, "It will be over before you notice." Then his grandpa said, " We won't do anything without your permission, Lovino, but this is important."Then, the god damned french bastard had looked straight at him, and had said, smiling from side to side "Your Grandpa would be so proud of you if you got rid of the Emirate of Sicily and were all cleaned up of those infidels..."
That got his attention, and it shouldn't have. Lovino should have known better. Lovino should have known that he couldn't be fixed. But he had hoped. He was an idiot. He always hopped, in the end. He just didn't learn that lesson.
He learned other things though. He had learned a lot during the last half a century.
For example, he had learned that 'It will be quick' means 'over fifty years, and counting' in French. Also, if a french asshat ever tells you 'just the tip,' do not believe a word.
He had also learned that Vikings tend to expand, like gases, to take all available space. He had also learned that they have a terrible sense of direction. The northern idiots wouldn't find their own ass even if given a map! They were supposed to go to Sicily to attack the emirate there, but once they had made their way south, pillaging and raping and all those things Vikings do, they had not taken a boat to Sicily like normal people. They had just gone East to attack the lands Byzantine controlled in Plugia. Sicily was in the opposite direction damn it! It was a bigass island! It was not that easy to miss!
He had also learned that 'loot' was a too funny sounding word to mean what it meant. It fucking hurt! It hurt a lot!
He used to cry a lot about it, and about the small random burns and rashes popping up on his body, but now he didn't. He didn't want others to know so they could make fun of him. They would say he deserved it for being such an awful kid when they thought he wasn't listening. He had heard the servants. Besides, this has gone to the dogs because of him, he was sure. Rome wouldn't do something so idiotic. He had messed it up, somehow. He deserved the pain. At this point, he was mostly used to it. What choice does he have? One can't be screaming all day. He tried. You end up tired, and alone, and being called disgusting and possessed by servants, and still in pain. Hitting things helped sometimes. Hitting servants helped, too. The throbbing was there though, at the back of his head.
France's brilliant plan had gone more or less like this:
A bunch of really scary looking guys whose skin burst into flames under sunlight had come marching in his lands and gone straight to besiege and conquer the parts of him that the Byzantine empire still controlled a bit, and kill and rape and such. Since they were at it, they had also killed and raped each other a whole bunch because they couldn't agree on leadership, the idiots. That is Vikings for you! How had such a stupid civilization lasted so long?
They knew how to run a business though, Lovino had to give them that. Soon after arriving the frozen ass idiots had completely forgotten what they were there to do in the first place and were acting as mercenaries for all the little Lombard princes in the area. They promised one the land of the other and pinned them against each other. Then, they started changing sides to keep money flowing.
In the midst of it, they had still found time to take a bunch of land out of Byzantine's control. The bastards could multitask, you had to give them that too.
Of course, Byzantine had not been happy about it. Romano had really tried to explain that it had not been his fault, but the empire was still pissed and wanted his Catapanate(province) back, so he had sent his elite corps, the Varangian Guard, to South Italy, to set the record straight.
When the Varangian Guard arrived and faced the Normand mercenaries, the conversation had gone like this:
"Hey, Broh! So long! Gimme a hug, you old rogue!Is Berwarld with you?What are you doing here?"
"Maki'ng a liv'ng"
" Ah, me too...By the way bro, how much money does your employer pay?"
So yeah. It turns out everyone in Europe and their mother was hiring Vikings. How the frozen-ass bastards managed to breed fast enough to satisfy the demand was beyond him. All he knew was they were all here.
The Varangian Guard still kicked the shit out of the Normans and gave his lands back to Byzantine, but just for show. They were soon all in a meeting, talking about the arcane Norse rite of "unionizing," and the next thing you knew there were double as many Vikings selling their services across South Italy, creating wars and breaking havoc over him while sucking up all the profit from his commerce and becoming filthy rich.
The pope asked for help to the meat-boiling bastards of the HRE. What did they decide to do? Yes, send more Viking mercenaries! Of course! Because that makes sense! Sent all straight to take land away from Byzantine again! Do you guess what Byzantine decided to do about it? Send more Vikings in greek clothing, of course, because that went well the first time! As for the Vikings themselves, they fucking liked the weather, so they sent enthusiastic letters to their families about the great beaches and the business opportunities in Italy. Lovino swore half of freaking Scandinavia, or wherever they were from, had poured down to his ports. And right when it was getting better, and the idiots were starting to kill each other more often than killing Lovino's people, the Goddamned HRE had to stick his ugly nose in and conceded parts of southern Italy to the Normans in ownership. Who the fuck did that bastard think he was to 'concede' pieces of his land to anyone? They were fighting again. They were never going to leave! And it fucking hurt!
At this point, Lovino had lost track of how many Viking factions were fighting all over him, and was confident the Vikings had lost track too. All he knew was that it had been about fifty years since this started, that the Byzantine Catapanate was still around, that his Grandpa and his Grandpa's boss were more concerned with having meetings with the Holly Rotenface Empire than with this mess, and that nobody had managed to figure out where Sicily was yet.
And on top of that, his observatory didn't have a damn shade to hide in, his clothes were itchy, and his stupid hat kept falling to the side!
"Dammit..!" Lovino cursed under his breath as the golden spyglass kept sliding in his sweaty hands. Velvet in July was not a good combination, but he did not dare to take his jacket off. He might get it dirty, and did not want to take the risk. He wanted to get things right this time.
The hat slid down one side of his face as he wrestled with the little golden object in his hands. The kid needed all his willpower not to throw the damned (but extraordinarily fancy and elegant) piece of trash to the floor and step on it until the thing learned its place.
He did not do such thing, of course. He just pushed it back in place, cursing again fluently and colorfully. Destroying his clothes was not the best idea, he repeated to himself, even if it REALLY felt like it at the moment! He almost never was called to attend visiting nations, and even though he hated socializing with new people(or socializing, or new things, or people), he wanted to get things right for once.
He growled again, low and bitter, closing his eyes for an instant. The fights in Plugia were giving him hell that noon. That did not help his mood. Not that anyone cared, right? He probably should not care either. He should be over this things.
The spyglass slid from his fingers and rolled in front of his knees.
Okay. There was no reason to be this nervous. Was there? It was just a bunch of idiots from some sunbaked wasteland West of Italy. They would probably just show up, kiss Grandpa's ass soft and tender, and talk about idiotic things. Perhaps all he would have to do was stand there and shut the fuck up all day. He was good at being invisible, wasn't he?
He sighed, trying to get a bit of anger to drain from his system, and looked for the spyglass again, picking it up with more steady hands. He could deal with this crap. He could, even with Plugia burning or whatever on Earth was going on now. He had dealt with damned Vikings, and Byzantines, and with the cheese fucking french bastard, who was worse than them all. This Aragon guy was just here for a diplomatic visit, and Lovino probably would not need to talk to him at all. How hard could this be?
"Like it fucking matters how hard it is..."
Lovino shook his head, trying to get the unhelpful thought out of his head (no matter how accurate). He should be waiting for the visiting nation and his dignitaries in the pontifical palace, but he was suffocating there even more than he was suffocating here, in velvet and under the Roman summer sun. He hated the Palace. He hated his home. He tried to spend as little time in it as he could. It is not that he was nervous or scared about who would come now. Nor that he cared about the stupid task of just standing there had been given to him for once instead of Feli. Not at all. He just felt it would be safer for all if someone kept an eye on the new guys from the beginning, that was all.
He would spy the dock, wait for the damned ship to show up, and run like hell back home. Nobody would have to know. That, of course, if he got the cursed spyglass to fucking work!
The hollow pain he felt in Bari gave him an extra mean sting.
"Fuck, not helping!" He didn't know if he was cursing the spyglass or the Normans anymore. Either one was better than to admit he cared about not blowing this off and was nervous. Pulling the sleeves of his shirt to avoid the slippery sweat that coated the entire spyglass at this point, he managed to pick up the object and all but screw it in his eye socket. As he turned the moving pieces right and left the foggy image of the dock came into focus, being pulled farther, and closer, and farther again. He shucked at this (of course), but he could at least adjust the lenses well enough to distinguish the colors of the flags crowning every single one of the myriad of ships gathering in the distant port. Four red bars on a bright yellow field. That should not be hard to find.
"The damned idiots must damn love being the goddamned center of attention. That is for sure."
Good, because he did not like being the center of attention himself (or so he said). The more invested the visitors were with themselves, the less likely they would notice Lovino fucking up. If he did (of course he was going to, what a question). With a scowl, already hating the strangers he had not met but who were clearly a bunch of pretentious idiots in jazzy clothes, like France or worse. He raked the beautiful forest of sails and masts big and small, that grew in the port of Rome, hat sliding to the side all through it. He entertained himself by criticising everything wrong with every single familiar flag that comes to sight (people is tacky, dammit!) until he saw the one he was looking for. Well, more than saw, he was optically attacked by it. The red and yellow flashed his eyes while he was looking at the farthest points of the port, flashy colors fat too bright and far too close to him, against the soothing blue sky. He tried to reorient the spyglass to the deck or to someplace not so red as he wrestled with the moving pieces to reduce magnification. Then, the second chromatic attack assaulted his open eyes, just after the red. A bright and gentle flash of green that sent warmth straight to his chest, and a smile that seemed directed at him. It was one of those smiles that wrap you up in warmth. The type of smile someone who would never hurt you would wear.
He dropped the spyglass. Cursed. Picked it up again and jolted back to the Pontifical Palace to announce the arrival of "Those filthy barbarians from the West," as Rome called them.
The flash of warm green was still burning his eyes and heating up his face by the time he arrived.
Antonio and the Eternal City (July 1054)
"...and overall, don't say a word about home unless I'm right there. Not even if you are asked directly. Just don't answer. Is it clear, Tonio?"
Aragon stood proudly at the front of his little ship as if he was on top of the world, delivering orders and advice left and right like saints deliver blessings. He might be a three-county kingdom who got partial independence less than 30 years ago, but he sure had the attitude of an empire. Antonio smiled as he observed his father, halfway between amused and fascinated. He apparently hadn't inherited Aragon's ambition, nor his self-confidence. It must be funny for strangers to see them together.
"Why is Papal State so dangerous, dad? I thought he was our friend."
"Ah...Would it be so simple…-The The man smiled halfway, patting his heir's head affectionately-Nations don't have friends Tonio. You should know that already."
"Well, but... won't he be in need of allies after what happened with Byzantine?"
"Well. Rome has God and his angels as allies. That is hard to beat" Antonio had to concede that "Besides...God involved or not, the sleeping lion is still a lion. And I feel this one is about to wake up...We better get on his good side."
" Oh! Look! We are almost there." Aragon exclaimed, taking shameless advantage of his son's nonexisting attention span.
Antonio obeyed, seeing nothing but rocks and dry bushes. As their little ship turned around a rocky cape to enter the bay of Rome, the eternal city came into view, half hidden behind a solid veil of masts, white sails, and flags of all colors.
All through their voyage, Antonio had been carefully memorizing a long list of things he was not supposed to say or do on this visit. As soon as he lied eyes on the city of Rome, his mind went blank, and he forgot them all.
Rome's walls stood proud and tall, bearing the scars of centuries. The aura of power and legend emanating from them so thick Antonio could feel it rub against his skin. His mouth dropped open, his eyes went wide, and his breath caught. A sudden overload of history and stories came to his mind, all fighting to be remembered first and ragging his brain as collateral damage. He knew about Rome. All Europe knew about Rome. Almost everything they knew was about Rome, actually. It was a legendary land he had heard of all his life, he used to imagine it floating on pink and red clouds when he was little, but now it was there, solid and real in front of him! For a second the young nation felt that he would never be able to breathe again and was fine with it.
Aragon smiled, amused.
"You had never seen it before, had you?" The young nation could barely answer. Aragon laughed "Well, obviously I have to take you to see more."
Antonio made the way from the ship to the dock and from it across the city as if walking in a trance. He just followed Aragorn with less than half his brain concerned with answering when talked to and not stepping over his travel companions. Every other part of it was devoted to taking the city in, every single part of it, the beautiful statues and corners where oh-so-much had happened. How could people live here without going crazy?
At some point of their oniric walk among palaces, churches and fountains they were stopped and greeted by a man-nation with an easy smile and an aura of power that took your breath away (if the city had left you any breath to start with). His aura was enough to know who he was. It was impossible not to know who he was. Antonio tried to look at the Papal States in the eye, and couldn't hold his gaze for more than a second. He had to look away, dizzy, a riot of the memories that were not his, and emotions that were not his either suddenly spiraling inside of his chest, love, hate, fear, adoration and everything in between, topped with endless rivers of reverence, none of them his. His first impulse was to call for his uncle Portugal and curl up on the floor until the riot passed, but he stopped himself in time.
Rome looked amused. He must get this reaction from other nations all the time. Confronted by the thought, the Spaniard tried to do what Portugal had taught him to push the alien memories away. He tried to find something that was his and held on to it. The complete and happily accepted awareness of his own inferiority in front of the man was his, and the admiration was his too. He focussed on them desperately, letting those feelings inundate every bit of his senses. He couldn't think of any adequate way of expressing either of those, and his mind was still dizzy, so he bowed, trying with all his might to stay grounded in the present and praying for his balance to not fail.
After that, he could barely remember a thing. Fountains and beautiful streets. His nerves were too tortured by aesthetic overload to take the sudden wave of external memories and live to tell. Still, he couldn't stop looking around, trying to see even more. The next thing he remembered was the welcomed shade of the pontifical palace's hall and the magnificent paintings all over the ceiling. 'This city is going to kill me' he thought with a pleased smile as he admired the place.
Somewhere, in the land of the living, he remembered adult chatter, his father's voice in the distance, all background noise like the noise of a distant fountain. If he had said or done something, it had been automatic, that for sure.
He only managed to abandon his trance when Aragon pressed his shoulder, gentle but firm, the sensation guiding him back to his body. He smiled, thankful, and focussed in the grounding sensation to drag himself back to the present, little by little. Aragon smiled back, knowingly, and gave his son some precious moments to collect himself and give him full attention.
"You are too sensitive to art." His father whispered to him, amused. Then louder "Antonio, why don't you go to play with Lovino, while The Papal States and I discuss some important issues? State matters are not adequate for children."
The young nation nodded happily, even though he was a bit out of it still. The idea of some time to play cleared his mind a little. Besides, he got the implicit order underlying the suggestion and was happy to help his father's diplomatic trip. Only one problem though. Who was Lovino?
That was probably something he should not ask out loud...
Unfazed, he looked around the room in search of something, or someone, one could play with. The cohort of bishops and old priests were out of the question, and there was not much else in the room. It was only in the middle of this search that his brain decided to registered, for the first time, a grumpy little nation who was standing right by Rome. He should be about seven, all wrapped up in thick green velvet and golden ornaments, with an inexplicable hat to top it all. He had a deep scowl plastered on his face, glossy eyes, and his little nose wrinkled as if he was smelling something putrid. Antonio was about to mention something, but he decided that even though he didn't remember the list of things he wasn't meant to tell Rome, definitively "I think your kid may have had an accident in his pants " was probably one of them.
The child was devoting himself to glaring hatefully at the floor with a devotion Antonio found really cute. He was red-faced, but it was probably just the heat. And the hat. He was aware that most of the people in the room who were not clerics were wearing one, especially the rich and fancy ones, but that for Antonio was not a valid excuse. He would also look unhappy and red if he had to wear velvet in July.
"Hello. My name is Antonio. You can call me Tonio if you want."
The kid mumbled something in Italian without looking up. So shy and so little! He was going to enjoy being friends with him!
"Let's go, Lovino!" he said happily, extending his hand for the little nation to take "Why don't you show me around? I'm all new and don't know anything!"
The kid pulled his own hands behind himself, making a repugned face. He gave a bratty whine and gave a step back, shoulders up and body all tense. Antonio wasn't bothered. He just felt sorry for the kid's manifest anxiety. He hoped he could make him feel better. Hm, first things first. He went down on his knees until his eyes were at Lovino's height, not wanting to look too tall or intimidating. He smiled at the kid, showing his honest good intentions, and kept his hand offered, giving him time.
Lovino didn't move though. He did not even move his neck to look angrily away as he did before, growing tenser by the second, Antonio tilted his head, a bit puzzled but still smiling.
The Papal State gave a step aside, leaving the kid more exposed, which did not sit well with him. With another annoyed growl Lovino forced himself to give a stiff step behind his grandfather. Antonio noticed that the kid didn't cling to the older nation's clothes as he hid behind him, as little kids usually do, but he didn't think much of it.
"C'mon, Lovi. We will have a lot of fun, I promise...I really want to be friends with you" He coached softly, for no use. Lovino mumbled something, deepened his scowl and glaring at the floor even harder. He may be trying to glare a hole deep enough to hide in. Antonio chuckled at the thought, which turned out to be a very bad idea. The kid went even stiffer. He seemed to be willing himself to turn into stone or contract out of existence.
Antonio noticed the change of color and leaned his head lower to try and find his eyes from a respectful distance. He noticed the adult's eyes on him as if they were expecting him to get upset at any point. Why would he though? It was Lovino the one who was obviously having a hard time; they should feel sympathy for Lovino not for him. He certainly was. Antonio had never been shy himself, but he understood it must be a terrible thing to feel.
"I'm sorry Lovi. I did not mean to upset you. I wasn't laughing at you. I'm just happy to meet you, so I laughed."
Antonio managed to catch Lovino's eyes for an instant. They were all wet and had something far too intense Antonio couldn't catch. It was too little time. Lovino had turned his head away sharply as if his eyes had been burned and stiffed, even more, contracting every little muscle he had, eyes screwed shut, his face a shade of red that was no longer funny and was starting to look unhealthy. Antonio worried that the child was going to tense so much he would pop his cranium open. He thought about stepping back, but Lovino was faster. He stepped forth and slapped the hand of the Iberian away as hard as he could.
The room went silent.
Lovino made a weird sound and stepped back again, but at this point, nobody was looking at him. They were far too scared.
Silent panic run through the room, eyes getting out of their orbits in horror just imagining what was about to follow. War, retaliation, the short of rabid vengeance one could expect from a wild military nation with a reputation of callousness* and the maturity of a nine-year-old.
Antonio made a bit of a displeased face and retired his hand, looking up at the adults in search of guidance. He looked more apologetical than angry. The entire room breathed. From his position on the floor, Antonio saw a couple of legs tremble in relief, but he didn't understand why.
With a sigh of defeat, the Papal States stepped back.
"I am sorry about this, Aragon, Antonio."
"It is okay." The young Spaniard tried to dispel the tension, even though his feelings were a bit hurt …"He is just shy. I understand"
" It seems you would have to play with Feliciano instead." Roma sounded deeply unhappy with the idea. Antonio nodded and looked at him, honestly sorry for whatever he might have done to contribute to the events.
"It is not your fault."
Antonio's nodded, still feeling guilty, and stood up again. Rome turned and looked around the room, probably looking for someone to take him to wherever Feliciano was. Before he could finish the thought, his reflexes kicked in and pushed him out of the way, making him jump a good meter as a blur of dark green velvet shot from the corner of his eye to the right where he had been standing. He did not pay much attention to people, but he was always attentive to the smallest change in his physical surroundings, or he wouldn't have survived this long in his home. Antonio landed towards the danger just in time to see Lovino finish his furious charge, head first at the height of where Antonio's stomach should have been, in the best imitation of a bloodthirsty bull the had seen. This time his blood did heat up a couple of degrees, eyes wide and a bit too alert for anyone's convenience.
That had not been a snap! That had been on purpose! It could have hurt a lot! Is not like he was a crybaby, he could take a lot of pain, but not because some brat felt like hitting him!
Aware of his state, he looked at his father to get directions, not sure of what he should, or wanted, to do. Aragon just waved him, indicating him just to let it go. Before he had time to get any useful order from his dad, he felt his hand snatched away with a hard slap and some pulling. Lovino was trying to drag him away from the group, without looking at him.
Antonio just dug hills where he was. Lovino kept pulling from his arm and cursing under his breath as he found himself walking on the same spot.
"I am not sure this is a good idea, Aragon. Your son is a nation born from war, after all. No matter his human temper, we both know his instincts are…"
"Oh. Do not worry. Antonio is a very patient child. Right Tonio?"
"...Eh, well Dad, actually..."
A warning crossed his father's eyes. Antonio lowered his head, getting that it was an order, not a question, a bit too late. He sighed and nodded, unenthusiastically. He said bye to the present dignitaries in the most polite terms and allowed the fuming Italian to drag him towards wherever he was planning to. The kid refused to answer any of his attempts to communicate, and that was not helping the Iberian's blood cool down again.
The rabid little beast took him to an interior garden, similar to the one Antonio had been staring at when he arrived. The pleasant spot was secluded, one single door for access, and was speckled with benches and lovely vegetation. A simple fountain added moisture to the air, helping compensate for July's heat.
Lovino just pushed him inside, hands flat on the curve of Antonio's spine. It hurt. Not much, but enough to irritate him further. He might be patient, but he was also nine and being unjustly mistreated.
"Stop doing that! What is the matter with you?!"
Lovino didn't even look at him. He just walked past him and threw himself dramatically on the stone bench, fists with a black cloud circling over his head.
The child growled and turned into a ball with his fists in front of his face.
The first glimpse Lovino got of Antonio was that of two green eyes, so full of light and gentleness they made him feel welcomed even through the spyglass. But that didn't count because he had clearly been in the sun for too long and was suffering from heatstroke at the time.
The first actual glimpse Lovino got of the Hispanic idiot was that of a happy, long-legged nine-year-old asshat, stuck in moderately elegant clothes he apparently wasn't used to, with two bright green eyes that looked right through him as if he was invisible.
Lovino looked away, snorting with superiority. Like he cared if that peasant from the ship didn't look at him. The child was apparently too poor to afford anything but perfectly comfortable, summer-friendly clothing of light colors that made his skin look even tanner and reflected the summer sun off, making him glow and keeping him fresh. The idiot had his hair all over the place also, with a crisp crust of sea salt on it. He apparently had been leaning over the board of his ship or hanging from the rope ladder of the masts on the way here, having the time of his life as he felt the wind move him around, and was too stupid to know that one can wear a comb in the pocket. And look at him now! He can't keep the composure of any nation worth their salt! He is just happy! Sparkling with joy as he looks at perfectly ordinary things! He didn't even have a fancy hat to make his life miserable, just an elegant but simple one with a wide brim, that looked good on him and kept the sun off his eyes. What a loser!
Lovino should pity him. The Italian would be doing him a favor if he decided to even talk to him. Let alone notice his existence!
He had not been curious about him since he was flashed in green through the spyglass anyway. Not like he had looked different than everyone at any point.
"Is a pleasure seeing you again, Rome."
"Please, call me by my current name. The past must be left behind. So, is he your heir?"
"Indeed. We hope we both can do that."
"Is time for the new brotherhood to substitute the old. Is a shame not everyone in Iberia seems to agree. How are Leon and his kids doing?"
The black-haired man, who looked like France if France was an ugly, bulky mountain goat, laughed politely to the poisonous joke Lovino did not understand. He was also ignoring Lovino, but that was okay because he was also wearing a useless hat and Lovino didn't care about him anyway.
He should be paying more attention to the diplomatic chatter going on over his head, probably. Instead, he was still looking at the other child nation. Somehow he expected that, if he found enough flaws, scowled deep enough, his annoyance would create a vortex of hate that would shuck the idiot's attention and make him look his way. Or kill him, that worked too.
Surprisingly enough, this plan did not work. The long-legged bastard stayed happily oblivious to the amount of hate an invisible figure was concentrating on him. He just kept looking over Lovino's head. He looked at the city, at Rome, at everything except him. He still seemed kind, and warm, and caring, and why the hell wouldn't he look his way?
When he looked at Rome though, or at what he had built, the Spaniard did so with absolute adoration, as if he thought that nobody ever would be as impressive as him. That hurt a little. Everyone looked at Rome like that, of course. Lovino would never be as good as him. He would never be as good as his stupid little brother, let alone as good as Rome. And they were related, the comparison was in everyone's head, he knew it.
Sometimes, the foreign idiot even mumbled to himself in his language as he looked at a building.
"They will come around, My Lord, I have complete faith in it. Once Castile comes around Portugal will follow".
"Let's all hope so...Which brings us to this young gentleman. He is your heir, I assume."
Aragon brought the kid back from the clouds with an affectionate pat on the shoulder. He looked lost for an instant as his eyes refocussed, but recovered very fast and vowed, offering the usual pleasantries to his grandfather.
What an idiot. He had been entirely out of it until now; there was no doubt.
It was hard to be truly mad at the idiot though. He seemed so innocent and happy that you just knew he hadn't meant whatever mean thing he had just done. Lovino managed to be mad at him anyway. It is hard not to get mad in the end at someone who just keeps kicking you in the stomach or making you feel like they did, anyway.
Probably the ingenuity was the worst part. It meant that the green-eyed bastard wasn't trying to be mean, there was just nothing to see in the Italian. Lovino looked down, feeling his face heat up. Of course, nobody noticed. That was a good thing. He did not want to be seen, let alone while all red.
Yeah, nobody noticing...it was a damned good thing. He liked things this way.
"Yes, he is."
"Lord Rome is an honor to meet you."
"I am glad to meet you too. What is your name, young man?"
Lovino felt his ear tune in despite himself.
That hit got even the Italian shrinking in place. What the hell? The old foreign bastard, hand fast like lightning, had just slapped the idiot's neck so hard even Lovino was feeling it. The idiot's dumbness must extend to primal nervous responses though because he did not even complain. He just flinched a bit and straightened back quickly as if nothing had happened. His cheeks were getting pink with shame though. South Italy could not help (nor did he try to help) the sting of sadistic pleasure he got from seeing it.
Maybe now that he was looking down the bastard would goddamned see him!
No, still no.
Dammit! How can anyone be so dense?
(or how can anyone be as uninteresting as you?) A voice sounded in his head
"Shut up, dammit" he mumbled to himself. Nobody noticed his shelf talk though. Which was fine. Was actually great. Was fucking awesome.
"Anto-n-i-o" the child muttered, wrestling with unfamiliar sounds in his mouth.
"I see...Antonio of Iberia, it is a pleasure to meet you. Do you have a nation name?"
"N-not yet, Sir"
"Please, forgive him, Rome. He spends far too much time with his mother."
"Ah, I understand…"
The revelation came as a shock.
Lovino, usually hyper-aware of everyone's smallest expressions, especially Rome's, was the only one who noticed.
Rome hated that kid's guts.
He was being polite and smiling, but he hated him.
It was not simple (and profoundly reasonable) animosity like what he had for France or the Holy Rottenface Empire. It was something deeper. Visceral
(It is something like what he has for you, just worse)
"Shut up. Grandpa has never looked at me like that" He hissed to the voice, and closed his eyes tight, refusing to listen.
As they made their way home, Lovino couldn't help but check Antonio constantly, trying to find what defect he had that made him so despicable. The kid was nice to look at (for whoever cared about that, not him though), he was polite, he was kind, and he looked like a good person if a little airheaded.
Lovino liked him. Or, well, to be exact, he liked him as much as he could like anybody he just met. Since he hated everyone out of principle, his liking amounted to a more reduced level of disgust, but still.
Maybe he liked the kid because he was wrong too.
He was wrong; he knew that. Everyone treated him as if he was wrong. Maybe the kid was useless too, and a coward.
He was nice though, and he did not swear. He just spoke funny, but it suited him somehow. Lovino kicked a stone that accidentally flew against the butt of one of the very respectable Cardinals. The man turned and glared at him, almost baring his teeth. Lovino scowled and stuck his tongue at him. The old man rolled his eyes, giving up. Whatever. It had been a bloody accident anyway. And he also spoke funny, for most people's standards, anyway.
Maybe that was it. He was wrong too. He was wrong, and disgusting, and useless and always angry, and a little demon and all those is why he couldn't see anything wrong in Antonio.
Antonio must be disgusting and wrong too. That is what his Grandpa's voice said, anyway, and he was never wrong, so Antonio must be all that.
He still looked kind, and was more polite than Lovino, and looked stronger. If he was disgusting, Lovino was worse. He was probably more damaged than the happy stranger. Rome didn't look at him the way he had looked at Antonio, as if knowing about his existence hurt, but that was because Lovino was his grandson and that made him indulgent. If Lovino weren't family, he would look at him worse than how he looked at Antonio.
He understood now why Grandpa had brought him and not Feli. He did not want to risk Feli being polluted by this other monster. Not like he cared anyway. He had not been excited about being brought along in an important diplomatic enterprise.
(you are such an idiot, getting your hopes high so fast)
He devotes the rest of the walk to counting the tiles of the road.
(What did you think you had that could be useful anyway..)
At least he could have a use and keep Feli happy. He had no idea of how Feli looked like, but he remembered caring about him, vaguely, when he was really really little. He cared for him still. He could at least do that, make sure he took all the dirty tasks so Rome could have at least one heir to be proud of...He didn't want to mess this up before, and he still didn't want now.
"Antonio, why don't you go to play with Lovino, while The Papal States and I discuss some important issues? State matters are not adequate for children."
What? No. Nononono!
Lovino jumped in alarm.
Wait a minute! What?
One thing was thinking about it! And other being thrown into it all of a sudden! He hadn't had time to get to the idea! He was distracted! He was thinking damn it! And why was everybody looking at him!?
His natural shyness caught up with him. His face caught fire. His thoughts became blurry. He suddenly felt whiny and exposed and self-conscious. He wanted to lash out, but couldn't, because he was trying not to mess up and be a good kid and behave for fucking once! He couldn't yell, and he couldn't hide, and he couldn't run. What was he supposed to do?
He found no answers as he looked up a bit, only more eyes. Eyes everywhere. If the foreign kid was so bad, why had someone to play with him? Suddenly he felt a rush of panic, that whatever that made Antonio so despicable would rub into him and made him even more unlovable than he was.
He suddenly resented Feli. Why couldn't he have a chance, too? He would work hard! And what if it turns out he is worse than the kid, and he makes fun of him, and laughs at him and points at him? What if he tells everybody how disgusting Lovino is, and...
Even those thoughts become far too complex for his nervous state as more and more eyes were on him. His thoughts became shorter and narrower and came down to all the eyes on him, and the kid being a stranger, and him not knowing how to play well with others, and all the times he had messed up before in his life, and everybody looking again, and not knowing what to do again. It was all mixing in with being invisible, and the stone that hit the Cardinal and was a fucking accident, and that big and scary lady in the market that chased him with a salted bacalao screaming that... He can barely breathe. His mind is going in circles. At this point, all he can think is ' don't cry, don't cry, don't cry' and then, when he remembers he is embarrassing his grandpa 'don't cry and don't swear, don't cry and don't swear.' No! He can do this. He will. He just needs some time to pull himself together. Why would people not give him time damn it?
He remembers a soothing sound in the background, but it can't compete with all the eyes and all the people thinking it is a shame to have a kid like this. He remembers being pushed forward and resisting it. He remembers his mandible aching from pressing his teeth so hard and repeating to himself over and over 'don't cry, don't cry.' Then two warm eyes enter in his field of view, with a reassuring voice trailing after them. He feels his much-needed alertness drop a little. He realizes he is relaxing. He panics.
After that, he just remembers saving Feliciano, and sitting here in the garden, completely aware that he had failed spectacularly. Again.
When Lovino finally uncurls from his place on the stone bench, far before he is actually feeling calm enough, he finds the Iberian sitting on the grass and watching him silently. He scowls at him.
"What are you staring at, creep?"
"...Are you okay…?" he ignores the first sentence entirely. It does not sit well with the Italian.
"What do you care, idiot?" A small twitch in the kid's brow told Lovino that the Spaniard wasn't immune to annoyance. Good "You must be an idiot to stay here. A big idiot" He kept pushing, but this time he didn't get what he wanted. The older kid just lets out a sight.
"You didn't seem to be okay. It felt wrong to leave you alone."
"Staring does not count as keeping company!"
"Is better than not looking at all. Or so I think."
"Look at something else!"
"Shut Up!...Just go away."
"You don't look okay. I couldn't leave you alone" The Iberian repeats, patiently. His patience annoys Lovino even more.
"W-w-well, I'm fine! Just...just...just shut up and go away!"- a little mischievous grin dared to show up in the Iberian's face
"Just shut up!And stop staring at me you bastard!"
Antonio opened his eyes comically wide at the curse word, especially coming from a mouth so small!
He had...Had he...Had he really...Had the little kid...Really?
He knew he should be outraged right now. That kid had insulted his mom! It wasn't ' any ' curse word. It was a big fat one! A very big fat one! Back among his people that insult was a valid reason to kill somebody!
However, and even though he was his people and his people would have killed the Italian on the spot, he wasn't mad. He loved his mom and should be very mad, but he wasn't. He didn't know why. It just didn't sound serious. It didn't even sound like the kid knew what the word meant. It just sounded a bit...sad? That frowning kid, all proud and dressed up in a thing that surely cost more money than what Antonio has seen together in his life, just looked...lonely.
Antonio takes some time to think about that. Apparently, he stares in the meantime, much for the little Italian's annoyance. That little nation was too vain, taking everything so personally!
"Alright" He agrees, with a nod and a smile. He then points at a patch of grass near the fountain " I'll be here, okay? ...In case you change your mind and want to play with me." The Italian looked at him, oddly, then turns his nose up and his body around, giving his back to Antonio.
From the corner of his eye, Lovino observes the foreigner explore his surroundings. After some exploratory walks, Antonio gets himself all set with some branches, some round stones of bright colors, and two pinecones. Lovino twists his neck to look better over his shoulder. What on Earth is that bastard doing?
In no time, in the hands of Antonio, the two pinecones became valiant knights on an adventure. The Iberian smiles and frowns and does all sorts of theatrical expressions for himself as he mumbles softly, in his language, each pinecone 's dialogue, and often those of pink rocks too. The pinecone knights hop in place as they gather stones by the shore of the big round sea and agree on their daring plans to defeat whatever the little sticks on the floor are meant to be.
Lovino doesn't like this kid. Antonio treats him weird. He makes Lovino's chest feel empty and strange. He is far too patient and kind, so he is hiding something for sure. Still one must concede that he can pantomime like a pro. The Italian finds himself smiling when Sir Pinecone the Second falls down the fountain cliff for the fifth time with a high pitched cry. Poor Sir Pinecone the Second just couldn't catch a break! Sir Pinecone the First runs to his rescue, mumbling something in the slaughtered joke of latin Antonio's people spoke, very distressed. After an enthusiastic answer from his friend, who jumps right up and ready to adventure again, both ride back to the heights of the fountain(Lovino knows they are riding because Antonio is clicking his tongue to make the noise of hooves), just to fall again. Lovino chuckles behind closed lips, refusing to let the laugh go out. He was not the only one fond of the cliff falling scenes. Antonio seems to have gradually abandoned whatever epic plot he had been developing initially in favor of just making the knights endlessly fall down the fountain while giving the funniest nasal cries. As Sir Pinecone the First fall, his usual mumbled: "aaaaa" got interrupted, and the poor man ended up bouncing on invisible rocks all the way down, with little "ay""ay""Uy""ouchy" sounds each time he bounded in an invisible rock. That just made Lovino's quiet chuckle escaped out of his mouth.
As soon as he hears himself, he freezes.
Antonio heard too. He looks at him, having the good sense of not doing so too directly this time. The little Italian covers his mouth, discovered. Then he realizes that the hands on his mouth were technically a confession, so he took them away quickly, feeling the hated heat go up to his face. He looks sharply away, with the deepest scowl he can manage to pull out. He needs to look angry before Antonio has time to laugh at him, or call him names, or tell him he is nasty and he can't play.
Antonio opens his mouth, but the Italian is faster than him.
" I don't even want to play with you, dammit!" but he has been caught big time, so he is not done "You look like an idiot. I bet you are an idiot. I bet your dad doesn't like and sent you here to play because you can't do anything right!"
The older kid just waits until he is done, and then takes his turn.
"Do you want to play with me?"
Lovino feels confused. But at this point Antonio confuses him so much he just palms his face.
"D- Did you even understand what I said?" maybe the weird forest kid just didn't get basic latin...
"Yes. I did" the Spaniard shrugs "But it doesn't answer my question. Do you want to play with me?"
Lovino has to make a double take on this. His head runs all memories of similar situations it has in storage. This is not how the other boy should be reacting. What the heck?
Antonio is just there, waiting for an answer and smiling warmly at him as if he means what he just said. It is a lie, of course, he doesn't mean it. He is probably just following some order from his father to be friends with Rome's grandson and get closer to the former Empire and get something from them. But he looks very convincing!
Very convincing indeed.
He really does look like he means it.
As he thinks about it, the Italian feels a claw slowly pressing together his heart and his stomach. It isn't a new sensation, and Lovino still doesn't know what it is supposed to mean, but this bastard makes it happen a lot.
Damn! No reaction.
His readiness to take whatever abuse the other wanted to dish out in reaction to his rant so they could walk away and be done with this awful unfamiliar situation was melting into a desire to cry. He was feeling soft again. He was liking feeling soft, and he liked that smile a little, even if made him drop his alertness. It is doing just that. He is about to panic again, but the Spaniard does something repugnant.
"..Please?" and then twists the knife by not sounding kind and strong, but vulnerable and hopeful "Back home I never get to play with other kids…"
That should be illegal. He grumbles a lot of curses and complains. He can't believe them.
Before he knows it he is sitting by the fountain, as far from Antonio as he can, face growing hot and Sir Pinecone the Second being squeezed in his little hand. Antonio looks genuinely glad he had changed his mind. That is confusing, so Lovino looks at his pinecone instead. He places it determinately on the edge of the fountain basin, brows pushed together. He could do this. It was supposed to be fun. Antonio had been having fun.
The moment he sees the other pinecone hopping towards him he realizes he has no clue of what he is supposed to do, and freezes.
The Spaniard smiles at his new playmate and talks to his pinecone with a nasal voice that Lovino found hilarious a minute ago. Now he doesn't like it anymore.
"I just talked to the king!" Antonio exclaims, making his pinecone hop in place "We need to save the princess from the tower of the evil Visir! We must hurry!"
Lovino doesn't move. He starts to blush.
Antonio gives him all the time he may need, and then some.
Nothing. The Italian just keeps blushing more.
"Eh...The tower is at the other side of the big round sea!Which way should we go!?"
Nothing. Lovino is now scowling and squeezing the pinecone so hard in his chubby hand that, if the thing had guts they would have been shot up to the sky a while ago. His blush is getting worse. Antonio gets distracted for a moment by how cute he looks all shy and blushed, but experience tells him this isn't good.
He moves the toy again, giving it a last try, a bit uncomfortable.
"O-Okay! I think I know! Follow me..?"
The pinecone makes his way in solitary for half a meter. Lovino isn't moving, nor is his pinecone. He looks extremely frustrated now. His eyes look too shiny and red, and he his glaring at Antonio's toy as if it was doing him a personal offense. Antonio abandons the nasal voice.
"You can answer, or you can move the cone. You can also just ask me what to do, outside game, that is fine too" Nothing, silence, and deeper scowl. Antonio lets his toy fall into the water and kneels closer.
"Hey. Lovi...is everything fine?"
The kid bolted up and gave a couple of angry steps away from him, just to freeze again in complete frustration. He turns his back to the Spaniard. Antonio just sits back up at the edge of the fountain, giving the young kid's back an anguished look. The Italian is visibly distressed; he is breathing far too shallow and far too fast. Antonio has no idea of how to help! He feels a little useless.
The rest went by just too fast. The Italian turned and gave him the most hateful glare he had seen, and darted towards him like a cannonball. Antonio's reflexes got him out of the way before either their minds could catch up. Lovino ran straight into the fountain, hitting his shive against the stone edge before landing nose first in the shallow basin, his mad race giving enough impulse for him to slide on his face for a good distance.
Antonio watched the ridiculous velvet hat floating lonely in the surface as if it held some deep meaning he was missing.
The next surprise attack he received he couldn't dodge. As he was turning to ask the Italian if he was hurt, a Pinecone flew straight to his face and hit him square in the nose.
He gave a step back, biting back a pained sound as he covered his nose. That was time more than enough for the Italian to jump out of the water and bolt out of the patio like a soul claimed by hell.
When Antonio tilted his head back down, the unpleasant sensation almost over and a couple of red droplets on his finger, confirming the wet feeling he had on his upper lip, he was alone in the place.
Exhausted in every way, Antonio let himself fall on the edge of the fountain again. He didn't even know how to feel about the encounter he had just have. All he could pick up from the chaotic storm of emotions flapping over his chest right now was disheartened, and a bitter aftertaste.
He fished his pinecone from the water and picked Lovino's from the grass. He looked at his former playmates, imagining they felt as dejected as he did.
At the call of the servants, the very young but very brave (prospective)Spanish Nation walks to the door of the large dining hall of the Pontifical Palace, shaking like an Autumn leaf.
As he walks, he tries to figure out how to best explain to the Greatest Empire Ever Seen that his little grandson has disappeared and maybe marrying a camel in Africa or gathering flowers in the mountains of Polonia for all Antonio knew.
The result of his meditations: There is no good way to say it.
Antonio gets to the gate of the dining hall and stops, waiting up against the wall, quite heart pounds against his ribs. A voice in his head tries to convince him that picking flowers in Polonia is what he should run to do himself while he still has time.
He breathes deeply and stands at attention, back straight and head high. He got some comfort from the familiar posture. To try and get some courage from the posture. Rome and his father appear soon after, walking towards him, deep in conversation, and with the usual flock of old men in colorful dresses chatting all around them, and braces himself for what might come.
'Are you sure you want to stay here and do this?' the voice insists 'Poland must be lovely this time of the year…you would be safe if you spent the rest of your life there, disguised as a goat….'
As the adults approach, Aragon catches a glimpse of his son. Standing there, on time and polite… Suspiciously rigid. Nervous. Guilt painted all over his face. Alone.
The look in the old Nation's eyes could have set a forest on fire. Antonio forgets his half-joke internal dramatism. His eyes close tight for a second as if he was about to be slapped.
Change of mind! He was no longer worried about the Greatest Empire Ever Seen. He was totally fine with explaining to Lord Rome he had lost his grandkid. He would do it right now! He had heard that Rome used to be really into lions. May he please be chained up and fed to the lions in a circus before Aragon gets his hands on him? Please? Or crocodiles. He is not picky.
The small procession reaches him. Antonio can't breathe. It is mostly guilt, but there is a big part of fear squeezing his lungs too.
"Lord Rome" He vows, his voice a bit more strained than it should "Dad" he proceeds too, and continues with all present authorities he can recognize, wishing the courtesy rituals were eternal. Sadly, they are not.
"Such a polite young man, Aragon. Let me congratulate you."
"Well, one has to be firm with kids, if one wants good results. Don't you think, Tonio?"
" In general, I don't take kindly on being disappointed. My boy knows that"
He knew he wasn't supposed to use the Lord's name for unimportant things like this. Farter Torres would say it was taking the name of God in vain. But father Torres had never seen Aragon on a bad day!
"Well, certainly it has worked, you got a fine young man here. I hope you two, kids, had fun" Rome smiles warmly. Silence "Where is Lovino?"
He was going to die. And worse. Not in battle. And worse. In public.
All the air of the room rushes into Antonio's lungs at once.
The tinny figure of South Italy appears from behind a column, curl up and proud, everything else embarrassed and dragging through the floor. His nose isn't bleeding anymore, but the mark of poorly cleaned blood is still under it and all the way up to his cheek, where he probably had tried to wipe it. His clothes are still wet, and some of the unnecessary ornaments in them were probably ruined. Antonio feels so relieved with what he sees that he could hug the guts out of the kid, but he is the only one. The grown-up population of the palace looks extremely displeased with the state of the kid's clothes. Lovino knows it and tries to hide his shame under cockiness, unconvincingly.
'Why on Earth was he still wet though?' Antonio wonders ' It is July. Even velvet should have dried out in the sun. Where has he been hiding?'
The little child drags his feet near the group, frowning. He pouts, glare down. Por a moment it seems he is going to bite back at any adult who dares to say a word about him. When he meets his Grandfather's eyes, and he deflates immediately. The rest of the disapproving eyes he is getting seem to be catching up with him now when he is deflated and vulnerable. His angry scowl poorly hides that he is approaching fast the verge of tears
"So. It seems someone has some explaining to do."
Lovino opens his mouth, but can't talk. He tenses, like Antonio, has seen before, fails to speak again, and races to said verge of tears. Whether he was a nation of an incarnation of the devil, Antonio couldn't tell for sure, but he could tell the kid was extremely shy. Probably the cohort of strangers listening to what he had done wrong and about to watch him get scolded was not precisely helping.
"You can start with how you ended up in water, and pick it up from there" His grandfather suggests.
The kid blushes and starts blinking suspiciously fast.
He is getting even redder than before, his little nose all wrinkled and his blinking faster.
The poor kid looks so terribly embarrassed…
..and so...sad? He looks furious, but in the sad type of rage…
And look at that guilty expression.
He looks beyond shy. The poor child looks simply miserable...
...and so little…
...The adults should not be making him go through this. They must know he is shy. They should ask him in private. This is not okay. Is he also going to get punished after this?
The kid's voice tries to pitch up proud and instead does a little squeak.
Oh, Lord! Antonio can't watch this.
"It was my fault" He intercedes. He immediately feels the undivided attention of every disapproving pair of eyes in the room fly towards him and set camp there. Isn't that great..? "We were playing in the garden, by the fountain, and I got upset about...something, I don't really know what, and I ...made him fall into the water." Antonio took a breath. Since he was at it, better go all the way. He hated being half-assed about anything " It was just a little bit ago, so he has not had time to let his clothes dry. That is why he is late too. I think I scared him a little".
At this, Aragon moves from looking at his son to glaring, composed expression but eyes on fire.
"You did what?" Growled and glared Aragon. Grampa's silence and disapproval being even louder than any word.
Rome looks at him in calm anger and frowns. The seven cardinals frown at the young nation in indignation and glare. The two bishops frown at the young nation in indignation and glare. The five frown at the young nation in indignation and glare. The two princes frown at the young nation in indignation and glare. The musician frowns at the young nation in indignation and glares. Lovino looks at him in complete astonishment, his mouth dropping open. The room temperature dropped several degrees.
The little Italian just has to pity the foreign child who had to survive under such excruciating army of glares he has not even earned. They are disgusted enough, and so many that they were managing to get even under the cheeky kid's skin. Antonio's eyes are forced to look gradually lower under the weight of it, his tanned cheeks slowly turning pink. Lovino's own heart is beating fast just by watching it; he doesn't want to imagine being at the center of it.
He watches the kid being scolded by, and in front of, every single adult in the room, most of whom he had never seen. All through it, Lovino's little heart was twisting in his chest and doing awfully painful things, pleading him to step up and stop this, that it was not fair! He didn't though. He didn't say anything. He was too much of a coward. He didn't even look away or went into the dining hall to give the boy some privacy. He just keeps quiet, watching without blinking through all of it, until only Aragon has not had a turn to speak.
Antonio's breath catches so bad when he notices it is his father's turn it hurts Lovino just to watch. The Italian sees how the tall kid fists his hands and bits both his lips, eyes falling all the way to the floor for the first time.
"We will talk about this later." The man says in his barely comprehensible language, coarse and low, before heading for dinner behind the rest. Antonio closes his eyes for a moment as his father walks away, small wrinkles forming for a second the corners of his eyes as if he was getting ready for a blow.
Lovino finds himself deeply entranced by his shoes. His heart is doing more painful things of a different variety, pushing his ribs out to get more room to do it. His sense of justice is nagging at him, telling him how much he was the one deserving that, how furious he would feel if he had been made endure that. Furious? He would be rabid! He would sell the culprit to hell in a handbasket full of cannibal ants. Before he notices it, Antonio is close to him and walking closer, smile absent. His first reaction is to run, but there is no way he can escape from that kid and his kilometric legs, and at this point trying to yell him away will only make things worse (he isn't blind, he is aware how much bigger Antonio is!). He is trapped. He just cowers and covers his head with his arms, clenching teeth very hard and hoping there will not be time for it to be too bad. He had not a brave soldier's soul, that is for sure/
The blow does not come through. Nor the yelling. The Italian does not know what he was expecting Antonio would do, but taking his velvet hat out of one of his pockets and handing it back to him was not it.
"You forgot it. I put it in the sun. It is almost dry."
Lovino did not get a single dirty look from the Spaniard all through dinner. After it, Aragon and his son retired early. Lovino's conscience tried to murder him every single moment that passed after the two foreign nations left.
Past midnight, the Italian sneaked out of his room and walked the silent corridors in darkness towards Antonio's room. He needed to understand.
...Us, Past Midnight
PD: Characters reflect, here and in coming chapters, the view of their time. It is the XI century, so expect racism, Islamophobia, homophobia, xenophobia, arachnophobia... and awful views about everything. I do not endorse a thing they say.